England doesn’t do patriotism very well. We never have. It’s either liberal post-colonial guilt that manifests itself as one big apology for existing, or thunderous odes to John Terry and Her Maj. Rarely do we simply celebrate with unabashed joy on how flippin’ ace we are.
It’s time to put that right and when better than St George’s Day, a date put aside to commemorate a priest who was allegedly chased out of Palestine for selling dodgy bacon to the army. We love bacon, so he’s alright by us.
Selecting the seven greatest living Englishmen in football is, on the surface, an impossible task. For a small island we consistently produce outstanding talent far beyond our means. But this isn’t just about ability; this is about seven thoroughly decent chaps who are as English as Hugh Grant in Four Weddings And a Funeral eating a cream scone while tackling that morning’s crossword in The Times..
For God, Harry and services to footy, we salute them.
Sir Trevor Brooking
Unassuming and avuncular Sir Trev was, is and will always be a West Ham man (well, if you overlook two appearances for Cork City in the mid-1980s).
It’s a rare breed of gentleman indeed who spends the latter half of his life playing down the outstanding achievements of his early days while arguably exceeding them through his diligent work as Director of Football Development for the FA.
The little Geordie genius dispels every armchair Freud-ism going. Individuals blessed with such unique and crowd-pleasing talents such as he are supposed to be either raging egomaniacs or flawed by their own greatness. Instead ‘Beardo’ has remained unassailably nice, humble, and approachable even after twenty years of playing the kind of schoolyard exuberance at the highest level that a multitude of modern players on a hundred grand a week and prone to tantrums and arrogance can only dream of.
Colin Bell and Sir Bobby Charlton
These two behemoths of Manchester football share the plaudits here because their similarities would make an omission for either unfair.
Both put in decades of highly distinguished service for their respective clubs – winning league titles and European honours along the way – before going on to become dignified ambassadors for their clubs and city.
Each were kings in their own right yet retained the standing of the common man. Each made Manchester great yet remained modest to a fault.
Matt Le Tissier
Perhaps the most depressing stat to fully illustrate the depths England slunk to in the 1990s is that Carlton Palmer was bestowed twice the number of caps as the finest extravagant talent we had produced in years. Andy Sinton got three more.
Did ‘Le Tiss’ kick up a fuss? Demand a move to a higher profile club?
Nah, he simply carried on stealing our breath with goals and vision that defied mortals’ belief before moving to a Sky studio to have a laugh with his mates. A stonewall legend.
Ings is seemingly on a mission to single-handedly disprove the clichéd negative interpretation of the modern day footballer and is on the fast-track to being viewed as the nicest guy in the sport all by the age of just 23.
We can point to a string of instances where the Liverpool forward has used social media for good and given away boots and helped supporters but most impressively of all is his founding of the Danny Ings Disability Sports Project. Check it out here.
A one-man repping all the old school values we have arguably lost in the technological age, Jimmy is a warm-hearted gentleman whose achievements in the game tower above most.
Considered the best right-back in the world following a superb World Cup campaign in 1962, the Lancashire diamond went on to elevate radio punditry with a mixture of the kindly and erudite. He’s nothing short of a national treasure.
The proverbial fan on the pitch ‘Carra’ is loved on Merseyside, respected in regions that don’t traditionally like Merseyside, and liked and respected by everyone else.
He has earned this acclaim through dogged performances on the pitch we’d all put in given the opportunity, a lifetime of loyalty and a self-deprecating wit rare in a top class talent.
He’d be one of our most finest exports if those in foreign lands could understand a quarter of what he said.
The list above is entirely subjective of course. Want to nominate your greatest living Englishman in football? Let us know on Twitter @FootballFanCast